Sanding vs. Planing

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how I achieve such smooth, even surfaces.

Planing and sanding are two methods of removing material and smoothing surfaces. Each technique is completely valid and has its advantages and disadvantages.  When deciding which to use, consider the following.


Plane when:

  1. you want to achieve a flat surface and crisp edges;
  2. you are using a wood with varying densities and you want it to feel flat and even;
  3. the material tends to clog or quickly dull sandpaper, making sanding impractical; or
  4. the most perfect surface is desired.


Sand when:

  1. the flatness of the surface isn’t critical or you need to blend curves or surfaces;
  2. you are using softwood and want the surface to simulate wear or create undulations;
  3. the material is too soft or difficult to work with a plane; or
  4. it is undesirable to have cleanly cut fibres and a highly polished, bare wood surface (e.g. to reduce the sheen).

5 thoughts on “Sanding vs. Planing

  1. I’ve generally sanded softwood and planed hardwood. It’s nice to know that somebody with your ability agrees with doing it that way!

  2. I just wanted to drop you a note and say that, while I don’t use Twitter or other social media and hence don’t follow you there, as a woodworking noob, I do greatly appreciate thesewoodworking tidbits you produce.




  3. Chris,

    I had this discussion this week with Rob Cosman, Jim Tolpin, Frank Klausz, Andy Chidwick and Vic Tesolin. I got all different opinions and methods for finishing the surface of wood or wood veneer. Frank gave me his usual tongue lashing (advice) ;) which is to be a blended woodworker and use sandpaper. Frank’s advice was about not wasting time and making money in woodworking/furniture making. Vic was more in the opposite camp, avoiding sandpaper and sticking with planes and scrapers. Jim’s methods aligned more with Frank’s. Andy seemed to have methods leaning towards Jim’s and Frank’s and Rob’s methods leaned towards Vic’s, although Rob does use a 6 inch air powered random orbit for large flat areas where he doesn’t want to spend that much time doing it by hand.

    So, my thorough investigation has proven that even among famous, highly skilled woodworkers, there is no right way or better way of doing something. Pins or tails anyone?

    Hope that helps!

    Ken Nagrod

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